Few movements have captured the nation’s attention as much as “Occupy Wall Street.” However because of these protests, municipalities across the nation have had to take a second look at how they attempt to navigate the delicate balance between free speech, public safety and excessive force. Mayors of cities such as Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Oakland, California; Portland, Oregon; San Antonio, Texas; and of course, New York, New York are dealing with the harsh reality of clashes with police as protesters resist orders to disperse – often leading to claims of police brutality.
“Occupy” Throughout the Nation
In interviews with Bloomberg News, several mayors explained that what began as peaceful public demonstrations have now deteriorated into perilous zones for drug dealing, theft and violence. However, even with the threat of public discord, there are many accounts of law enforcement officers abusing their authority and using excessive force. The stories of Scott Olsen, a Marine who suffered a fractured skull at the hands of Oakland Police, and Iraq War veteran Kayan Sabeghi, whose spleen was ruptured after being clubbed by police are chilling reminders that police officers can quickly overstep their bounds.
Just recently, police at the University of California, Davis doused protesters with pepper spray to break up a campus encampment. Pepper spray was also used on an 84-year-old woman while taking part in a protest in Seattle
Excessive Force in New York?
New York is also no stranger to altercations between police officers and protesters. Recently, a 20-year-old protester was beaten by police after police claim the protestor resisted arrest and stole an officer’s hat. According to the attorney for the young protestor, he needed four staples to close the gash inflicted upon him by police batons.
Moreover, following the eviction of protestors from a local park, police restricted protestors from demonstrating in front of the Mayor’s residence. The police blocked every corner with barricades and police lines, limiting the protestors’ rights in the process.
Many people believe that the Occupy movement has reached a tipping point, since more homeless people and street youths are joining the camps. Nevertheless, police officers must still adhere to rules regarding the use of force. If you believe you have been assaulted by the police or are the victim of police misconduct, an experienced attorney can advise you of your rights and options.